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October 26, 2011

The Keeper Reaper

Second, Short, and Catcher

by Michael Jong

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Yet another week passes with more potential keeper names for The Keeper Reaper to examine. The season is winding down just as the offseason for keeper league owners is heating up. Here again are the format categories that we are considering, for reference:

Shallow (10-team mixed, 3 keepers): http://pfm.baseballprospectus.com/index.php?cid=6431
Medium (12-team mixed, 4 keepers) http://pfm.baseballprospectus.com/index.php?cid=6430
Deep
 (15-team mixed, 6 keepers) http://pfm.baseballprospectus.com/index.php?cid=6432
NL-Only
 (12-team NL only, 5 keepers) http://pfm.baseballprospectus.com/index.php?cid=6435
AL-Only
 (12-team AL only, 5 keepers) http://pfm.baseballprospectus.com/index.php?cid=6434
Super Deep 
(20-team mixed, 10 keepers) http://pfm.baseballprospectus.com/index.php?cid=6433

Dustin Ackley | Seattle Mariners
Shallow:
NO
Medium:
NO
Deep:
BORDERLINE
AL-only:
YES
Super Deep:
YES

Before we even consider the potential 2012 Ackley, let us prorate the 2011 version and his minor league performance to 650 plate appearances to get an idea of what he could look like:

Ackley

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

H

AVG

OBP

SLG

2011 Majors

650

67

10

62

10

157

.273

.348

.417

2010-2011 Minors

650

96

11

61

12

153

.280

.387

.435

The run and RBI numbers from the minors are there for posterity but are essentially meaningless. What is evident is that, in the first two seasons of Ackley's professional career, he has been just a mediocre player in terms of fantasy contributions. Among qualified second basemen in 2011, one other player performed similarly to the projected 2011 Ackley, and that player (Neil Walker—more on him later), was worth $12 in 12-team mixed leagues last season.

With very little changing in Seattle in terms of their offense, it is hard to predict a significantly better performance in terms of run stats, so the $12 prediction is a baseline of performance should Ackley remain stagnant in development going into next year. The good news is that there is room for improvement in at least one regard: batting average. Kevin Goldstein mentioned before the season that batting average may be Ackley's only fantasy contribution but that it would be a good one given his strong contact skills and excellent swing. He displayed that in the minors, striking out only 12.7 percent of the time while walking 14.2 percent of the time. His selectivity at the plate and contact bore out in his discipline numbers, as he made contact on 84 percent of pitchers and almost 90 percent of those in the zone while swinging at only 39 percent of total pitches. Still, he struck out 21 percent of the time, and with a little more experience and his pedigree, we could see improvement in that category and subsequently in his batting average.

Unfortunately, the rest of the profile is likely to remain static. Ackley is a decent bet to post double-digit home runs and steals with a full slate of playing time next season, but even that and a .286 batting average only bought Howie Kendrick a $14 value and an 87th place finish in fantasy value standings in 2011. Even with improvement in his batting average, Ackley remains right on the border for deep keeper options.

Neil Walker | Pittsburgh Pirates
Shallow:
NO
Medium:
NO
Deep:
NO
NL-only:
YES
Super Deep:
YES

Ackley, optimistically, may be the American League version of Neil Walker, but Walker himself is exactly who we think he is. He actually outperformed his PECOTA projections in 2011, mixing an average batting average with 12 home runs. Unfortunately, most fantasy fans were expecting more homers after he hit that exact number in 2010 in nearly one-third fewer plate appearances. Expecting a few more in 2012 sounds appropriate, and his plate peripherals have remained pretty consistent through his first two seasons, meaning any variation in batting average would be at the mercy of the BABIP gods. Even with some improvement, Walker's presence in a poor Pittsburgh lineup is not going to improve his menial run counting stats, and given his poor steals percentage and lack of speed, it would not be advisable to count on his almost 10 stolen bases again in 2012. He remains a solid keeper in NL-only leagues and our super deep categories only.

Dee Gordon | Los Angeles Dodgers
Shallow:
NO
Medium:
NO
Deep:
BORDERLINE
NL-only:
YES
Super Deep:
YES

Gordon is a confusing player because he showed two distinct sides in 2011, coinciding with his stint before and after his August injury.

Gordon

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

H

AVG

OBP

SLG

June-August

114

13

0

5

12

26

.234

.248

.270

September

119

21

0

6

12

42

.372

.398

.451

But through those different performances, we saw a couple things remain static even with drastic changes in hits and times on base.

  • His steals remained pretty similar even with more opportunities. Gordon attempted 15 steals in his first 114 PA and 16 steals in his next 119.
  • He does not have much power. His ISO in both instances was below .100, and his RBI totals at the top of the lineup remained about as scant before and after the injury.
  • He still could not draw a walk. He drew just two in his first 114 tries at the plate and only five during his hot streak.

So we can expect Gordon to be a steals specialist with no power; this sort of player is not a new entity to fantasy players. The question is whether his batting average can support his game enough to buy him the steals on which his value will depend. Last year, Gordon hit .345 on balls in play, and it is safe to say that he will not be as lucky in 2011. This is especially true given his lack of plate discipline; while Gordon proved he could make contact (89 percent of pitches swung at), he also showed that he could not determine the difference between a strike (in-zone swing rate of 63 percent) and a ball (out-of-zone swing rate of 44 percent). Since he does a good job of making contact on both pitch types, he should be able to avoid strikeouts but will also run into his share of poorly hit balls. Last season, pitchers threw a ball in the zone to Gordon 54 percent of the time; given his penchant for swinging a bit indiscriminately at balls and strikes, pitchers may be making the adjustments to throw poorer pitches his way. And since Gordon has yet to show a good ability to draw walks, his OBP and steal opportunities are going to be strongly tied to his success on balls in play.

It may be easier to think of his performance in a range. Last season, Ichiro Suzuki batted .272 and got on base at a .310 clip, winding up with 40 stolen bases on the way to a $15 season. On the opposite end, Alcides Escobar managed a .254 batting average off of a .285 BABIP and reached base at a .290 rate. He managed to steal just 26 bases en route to a $6 year. Take the middle route for Gordon and you may be looking at a $10 or $11 season with over 30 steals but paltry side numbers. Take an optimistic approach given his early success in the majors, and he lies closer to the borderline for deep leagues.

Ian Desmond | Washington Nationals
Shallow:
NO
Medium:
NO
Deep:
NO
NL-only:
YES
Super Deep:
YES

Desmond, like Gordon, will benefit from hitting at the top of the order. Also like Gordon, he too has a penchant for not seeing the finer points of the walk. Unfortunately, his contact capabilities are far inferior to the three middle infielders listed above, and that is what ultimately brings his value down. Yes, the Nationals' lineup figures to improve after uncharacteristically poor seasons from Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman, but even an improvement in his runs scored would not allow him to match up with a player like Gordon in terms of speed. While Desmond once upon a time graded out as “a tick above average” in speed according to Kevin Goldstein, Gordon had been considered a threat to “steal 50-plus bases per year” in Goldstein's eyes. So while Desmond has similar limitations, he represents part of the low end of what Gordon could accomplish and should be treated accordingly in deep keeper leagues.

Emilio Bonifacio | Florida Marlins
Shallow:
NO
Medium:
NO
Deep:
BORDERLINE
NL-only:
YES
Super Deep:
YES

It is difficult for me to be the guy who remains objective about Bonifacio after watching his disastrous 2009 season from a fan's perspective as well as the analyst chair. But this season, he has made legitimate strides. Here is some guy on some Marlins blog highlighting those improvements:

You can immediately see the two major changes in Bonifacio’s game between the two time periods of his career. His lack of power and strikeouts remain at similar levels, as evidenced by his strikeout rates, ISO, and extra bases per hit. The two differences lie in his walk rate and his BABIP.

...Bonifacio is clearly swinging at fewer pitches than he used to in his first few seasons in the league. This has led to more pitches seen, more walks, and more called strikes. The fact that he has whiffed on almost the exact same percentage of swings is pretty indicative of why his strikeouts remain similar; it seems Bonifacio has probably replaced a certain number of whiffs with an equal number of called strikes by taking more pitches. However, overall this recent change has been of benefit to Bonifacio, and the change to fewer swings is pretty indicative of talent in the future...

Bonifacio's changes in walk rate from 2010 and 2011 are a direct result of increased selectivity; after swinging at 35 percent of pitches outside the zone in 2009, he has cut down that number to 28 percent in 2011. More walks with similar strikeout totals indicates an increased chance of getting on base and wreaking havoc with steals, and Bonifacio did just that by swiping 40 bags in 2011. Clearly his batting average was inflated, and expecting another .300 hitting performance would be farfetched. However, given his recent improvements, expecting a .270 hitter with close to 40 steals still leaves him fairly close to the $13 to $15 value necessary for deep keeper eligibility.

Ramon Hernandez | Cincinnati Reds
Shallow:
NO
Medium:
NO
Deep:
NO
NL-only:
NO
Super Deep:
NO

Hernandez has a few things going against him, mostly the uncertainty of free agency. The Reds are unlikely to ask him back with Devin Mesoraco (himself an interesting Keeper Reaper option) waiting in the wings, so Hernandez will be left to try and find a job after a stellar part-time season. Complicating matters is the fact that Hernandez might be a Type A free agent, which would lower the chances of signing somewhere with more significant playing time. He clearly has shown he still has some legs, so he may be worth holding onto in your very deep leagues, particularly if he lands in a spot where he could get a starter's playing time.

Michael Jong is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Michael's other articles. You can contact Michael by clicking here

Related Content:  2011,  Steals,  Neil Walker

16 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Benjamin Harris

I have Dee Gordon, Emilio Bonifacio, and Yunel Escobar in a "Super Deep" league (6x6 with OBP and Holds). Who do you think I should keep and which ones should I look to trade?

Oct 26, 2011 04:36 AM
rating: 0
 
CRP13

Keep Yunel. Position scarcity. Outfielders are a dime a dozen. Also, sounds like Bonifacio being supplanted at the top of the lineup by Juan Pierre is the rumor du jour.

Oct 26, 2011 06:41 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff

CRP13,

Yunel Escobar is an extremely interesting case. In deep leagues last season, he was worth just $12 even while returning to .290 hitter form. The problem is that he just doesn't provide a whole lot of power (10 HR / 600 PA for his career) and he has no speed to speak of. He's also missed just about 25 games a season over the last four years due to injury, so he is a candidate for lost playing time every season. Strangely enough, I endorse a player with bigger upside like Bonifacio, even with his flaws, over a known fantasy-light commodity like Escobar. There's no comparison in real life (Escobar is clearly the better player), but fantasy baseball is a weird creature.

Oct 26, 2011 08:58 AM
 
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff

Benjamin Harris,

That sounds like a very difficult question. The addition of OBP actually makes me lean more towards Bonifacio. Both players are very similar in that average and steals will play a major role in their value, but Bonifacio has proven over the last few years that he can take a walk. As much as it pains me to say it, among those three he seems like the best choice.

CRP13, the reason why positional scarcity doesn't come into play in this case is that Bonifacio actually played over 60 games at shortstop this season because of Hanley Ramirez's various injuries. For the purposes of next year, he is a shortstop, and thus holds a lot more value. As far the Juan Pierre rumors, I doubt the Marlins go after him. The team needs a center fielder, and at this point Pierre has been established as a decent left fielder but not someone who can carry center field. Plus, he's coming off one of his worst seasons at the plate and on the field. The team is more likely to pursue pitching and fill center field in-house with either Bonifacio or Chris Coghlan.

Oct 26, 2011 06:59 AM
 
PapaGiorgio

Zack Cozart in a deep-superdeep (10 teams, 15 keepers) dynasty league?

Oct 26, 2011 06:46 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff

PapGiorgio,

I really like Zack Cozart, so I'll look into him for next week. Thanks.

Oct 26, 2011 07:00 AM
 
Guancous

Would you rather keep Ackley or Jason Kipnis in a deep league?

Oct 26, 2011 08:42 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff

Guancous,

Jason Kipnis definitely. Both have similar batting average upside, but Kipnis has more power and is more likely to produce counting stats given his surrounding lineup. I recommended keeping Kipnis in medium-depth leagues, so I would definitely lean towards holding onto him in deep leagues over Ackley.

Oct 26, 2011 08:52 AM
 
Mike Smith

My apologies if this has been asked/addressed under previous "Keeper Reaper" columns, but is there a plan to consolidate these ratings somehow? I'm loving the write-ups!

Oct 26, 2011 10:09 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff

Mike Smith,

Derek Carty mentioned that we may do this, so keep an eye out!

Oct 26, 2011 11:39 AM
 
Cromulent

I would love to see this. I'm deciding between Dee Gordon and Stephen Drew, both of whom have been covered, but still...talk about apples and oranges. No idea how to weigh those two against each other.

Oct 26, 2011 15:26 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff

Cromulent,

Based on my evaluations, I would go with Gordon. I don't know how Drew will fair after his injury or when he will return, and Gordon is sure to be the starter from day 1 next season. Had Drew been healthy, this would have been a closer call, but at this point I'd side towards Gordon.

Oct 27, 2011 09:59 AM
 
iorg34

As an auction-keeper player, the expected dollar value mention help me gauge things. Thanks for including them.

Oct 26, 2011 11:27 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff

iorg34,

You're welcome! Keep in mind that the dollar values mentioned here were based on 12-team mixed leagues, but using PFM and similar player comparisons, you can find out the estimated dollar values in other leagues.

Oct 26, 2011 11:34 AM
 
fawcettb

How do these ratings work for scoresheet, which doesn't give much value to SB unless the success rate is going to be above 75%?

Oct 26, 2011 11:29 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff

fawcettb,

That is a more difficult challenge because of the relative instability of stolen base success rate compared to attempt rate. On a year-to-year basis, success rate does not have a strong correlation, so it may be advisable to go with players who have established long-term success or scouting information about speed and basestealing skills instead of chasing raw steal numbers.

For example, guys like Michael Bourn (an obvious selection, I know, but I'm using him as an example) whose success rate has been good for the long haul and who have obvious blazing speed may be choices to target for Scoresheet if you were specifically looking to benefit from steals. Scouting information plays a huge role in this, but otherwise you may want to try not focusing on finding positive value from steals and getting them incidentally instead.

Oct 26, 2011 11:39 AM
 
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<< Previous Article
Premium Article World Series Prospectu... (10/25)
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Fantasy Article The Keeper Reaper: Out... (10/25)
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Fantasy Article The Keeper Reaper: Sta... (10/27)
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The Lineup Card: 13 Ba... (10/26)

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